05-12-14 9:10Turning to the Left

Kerry: Extreme left attitudes need reining in!

Eight years of a liberal Democratic agenda has further separated the populous of this country. We are broke, in debt to the teeth attempting to force our politically correct agenda in areas of the world that don't want it. In the liberal dems zeal to force every American to talk, look and think the same, we have watered down the kool-ade, censored, boycotted and attempted to disarm America. We are slowly and steadily losing control our our rights and too many Americans are of the herd mentality.



Wow, so much incorrect here I barely know where to start.

Kerry: Extreme left attitudes...

Obama is a centrist. He is not extreme left, and nothing happening in our country is extreme left. Extreme left is post-monetarism. Slightly less extreme left is full socialism. Firmly left is the Nordic Model. Barely left is Obamacare.

Right now our laws heavily favor the very wealthiest. That is not "left."



Kerry: ...need reining in...

Ha! Countries like Sweden and Finland have social democracies far to the left of ours, with market economies, and their people are fairing better than we are in every way. Statistically, they are healthier, with longer lifespans, lower infant mortality, less addiction, less crime, better educated - and happier.

Implementing the "leftist" policies they use, like full public education, full social services and full healthcare, would give us the same kind of positive outcomes. In socioeconomics, we could stand to move further left, not veer back right.



Kerry: Eight years of a liberal Democratic agenda has further separated the populous of this country.

No, the separation between political factions has existed since the beginning of this country, and exists in many countries, and can usually be overcome enough to get things done. However currently the very wealthy are using their bajillions to fund campaigns to stoke phobic fear about immigration, gay marriage, and other social wedge issues, to drive voters to elect laissez-faire Republicans. What's more, Tea Party and RNC operatives are refusing to provide the slightest legislative cooperation, with the stated goal of nothing more than making Obama's presidency a failure.

The current dysfunctional gridlock is a result of these far-right policies.



Kerry: We are broke, in debt to the teeth...

No. Obama is lowering the debt, and it was under a Democrat that we last ran a surplus. "The Left" did not create the debt. Left policies are not expensive and pay for themselves. Endless war, massive arms buildups and criminally low taxes on the rich are the policies which exacerbate debt, and those are far right policies.



Kerry: In the liberal dems zeal to force every American to talk, look and think the same...

Left polices which allow alternative families, encourage racial diversity and choice are not "talk, look and think the same" policies. Right policies which only allow one kind of marriage, which stoke fear of racial encroachment, and which attempt to control women, are designed specifically for homogeneity.



Kerry: We are slowly and steadily losing control our our rights and too many Americans are of the herd mentality.

We are losing control of our rights but this is not because of "the left." It began with policies started by the Bush administration in response to 9-11. Basic rights like privacy, habeas corpus, and humane treatment were abandoned for the rightwing cause of the War on Terror. Obama has done nothing to stop it, but as I said, he is a centrist. Actual, slightly left politicians are speaking against the terror surveillance state.

However the worst disenfranchisement we are currently experiencing is the loss of self-determination created by the oligarch economy. Studies show that the policies which are preferred by the wealthy are the polices which are enacted with legislation, while policies favored by the middle class majority are very seldom enacted. We the people do not have control of our government.

There are things which can be done to reign in oligarchy. Policies like high progressive taxation, full education and full healthcare, strong unions and a strongly regulated economy work to provide political and economic enfranchisement across the population. All are "left" policies.

The right are lapdogs to the oligarchy and so are the centrists. Only by a swing to the actual left, through popular uprising, can we have rights and the ability to exercise them. It can't happen soon enough.



Kerry: What is an alternative family?

Anything other than standard nuclear. Single parent, gay couple, multigenerational, etc.



Kerry: What's the problem with standard nuclear?

It is not the only kind that exists.



Kerry: Why do you need to champion this cause for labels?

Gay people need full legal marriage equality. The way to achieve this is by championing the cause.



Kerry: I'm sick of how you liberals just want to make a big deal about it. Sorry, I don't care either way.

The right cares. If you are advocating a turn to the right, you are advocating for more suppression of marriage equality, and then you will have to keep hearing about it. People will not stop talking about it until equality is achieved, after which, it quickly becomes a non-issue. The country turning to the left would give you relief from hearing about this subject. Turning to the right would not.



Kerry: When is it alright to address the issue of Russia, China, homeless families and vets, our own military using the hell out of their troops and kicking them to the curb when they arrive back home, mental illness, a justice system that is bought and sold by the color of your skin, the gov fuel lucrative war on drugs, ????

Now.

The right has no good answers for those, and neither does "centrism." Actual political leftism has answers to some of them. Protecting soldiers from needless war is part of finding peaceful solutions. Taking care of veterans is part of full healthcare. Housing homeless and providing everyone with the education and jobs they need to stay healthy and solvent is part of full social services. Fairness in the courts is part of full social justice. Ending the war on drugs is part of full cognitive liberty. All these issues would be helped by a turn to the progressive left.

However, far more ugent than any of this is how to address catastrophic CO2 buildup in the atmosphere, which we have to address at the same time we address the oligarchy, because they are the same problem. The right and centrists are proposing nothing that will work for either. Only radical left solutions, like rapid shifting to green energy, and rapid redistribution of power, have a chance of mitigating the effects.



Merry: This country is in desperate need of new leadership...we should start from the ground up. Everyone who has been in Washington needs to be fired and we need to elect new people period. There should be term limits then maybe we wouldn't have the same old shit going on for years and years. Washington needs a overhaul and has for a long time.

The answer to the problems in Washington is to get the money out of politics. Right now the only will being carried out is the will of the wealthy, because they pay the campaign bills.

We need publicly financed campaigns, completely free of money interests, because elections are starting to go mainly to the highest bidder. Recent Supreme Court decisions will only allow it to get worse if we do not put a stop to it.





05-11-14 5:10The Colorblind Proposal

I moderated and participated in discussion on religion for many years. Time and again, I have seen people use this proposal to explain why other people do not believe what they believe. They say, "Just because you cannot see what I see, and you cannot feel what I feel, it doesn't mean my belief is wrong." They seem to consider this "unfeeling" to be a kind of birth defect, as if unbelievers are just born lacking some sense organ that believers have, and that is why they are non-believers. I've seen it compared to color blindness.

I have come to think of this as "the colorblind proposal." And I find it to be one of the most disturbing conceits in all religious debate. A color blind person is truly deficient, handicapped in a way...there truly is a demonstrable lack in their sense ability. However, there is no reason to think that people who believe something different are actually deficient, or actually sensing anything different.

1) Color blindness is a thing which actually exists and can be shown to. There is no debate among the color blind about whether the rest of us are "really" seeing more or not. It is extremely simple to show that full-sighted people are seeing something real. That is not analogous with theists, who cannot provide any evidence that they are actually getting "more information."

2) This theory doesn't contend with the fact that people are able to freely switch from theist to non-theist (and vice versa) throughout their lives.

3) There is no reason to think that theists actually "feel" something that non-theists don't feel. When brain activity is examined with an MRI, the readings of Buddhist monks in meditation are the same as those of Catholic nuns in prayer, even though the nuns are reportedly in communication with a deity and the monks are not.

Every normal person appears to be capable of those "feelings." The difference is what you choose to assign as the source. And that is a personal choice. That choice does not appear to be something you are born with.


The conceit of the believer - that their belief is real and they can "tell" but you can't - is unwarranted. In the absence of evidence, there is no reason to assign a "defect" in the sense abilities of those who disagree about what certain sensations mean - particularly in the absence of any kind of pathology. This conceit is not warranted by the facts.


That's my current position. So here's Rita's recent post:

Rita: IF God does exist.....THEN i can see how some humans could be more attuned to what God is. They may even "know" something about God that others cannot know. Im on the fence truly about the whole God thing....moreso in what my idea of what God exactly is or could be. But....i do think that there are some individuals who have the capacity to be attuned to whatever it is and i think many humans lack that ability completely.

After reading this, I might entertain the idea that perhaps some humans actually are spiritually colorblind. Perhaps there are a few people, perhaps like sociopaths, who never have spiritual feelings because they are not capable of them.

But I have never met anyone like this. Everyone I have talked to, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics, Atheists, and everyone in between, describes moments of great transcendence, when they feel they are sensing something greater than the ordinary. The theist may think he feels God. The non-theist may think he had a rare moment of great awareness and insight. The Buddhist may think he has reached Nirvana. But they are all feeling something which they describe in amazingly similar ways.

So. Perhaps the "spiritually colorblind" exist but I would describe it as far from common, and clearly NOT defined by who believes what.

Rita: I dont think that a book gives u that gift either and i dont think that belonging to any specific religious belief enables you to possess this gift either.

This is really the point. When someone says, "Just cause you can't feel it, it doesn't mean my belief is wrong," they are making two mistakes. One, they are assuming the other person is unfeeling. Two, the feeling seems to be something real, but your belief about what it means could still be wrong.


Later...

Erma: I'm not saying atheists are blind. I believe that they choose NOT to believe or not to accept God.

Sure. That is the exact opposite of the colorblind proposal, which says that because non-believers are simply born that way, or for whatever reason, they are unable to feel what the believer is feeling.



Erma: Just because you (general you) like green and I don't doesn't mean I should critique you about it or visa versa.

"Jesus is the son of god" is not like "I love green." One is an opinion; the other, if true, would be a fact. They are not equivalent. There are claims of "fact" made by religion which should be critiqued.



Erma: People say there were wars caused by religion. I agree, there were, and there were wars caused because of women, land, greed, oil and the list goes on. AND war mongers will USE excuses to rile up people to cause wars for their own private agendas.

And yet, in the last 2,500 years, there have not been any wars or persecutions in the name of Buddhism. 2

There may be something about Buddhism which makes this the case. There could be things about Christianity which make this very much not the case in Christian history. It is important to examine Christianity to see why it so often fails where Buddhism so often succeeds.




Erma: It is not an atheist's right - nor should it be - to judge someone for having religious beliefs.

They should not "judge" the person. They should judge the beliefs, as should everyone.



Jellie: For me I think that every human being must answer "The God Question" as true, false, or I don't know.

No human is forced to answer this question. As far as I am able to discern, it is not important to answer it.



Jellie:I think I like the "I don't know" people best.

So far, "I don't know" is the only answer that can be shown to be true. Since I am a stickler for truth it's my favorite too.



Southender: I won't discuss religion with atheists. They are so rude! They always use words like "ridiculous" or "imaginary" and that's offensive!

What kind of language do you recommend?



Southender: Why not say, "I have a hard time believing in the fact that there's a God. Please tell me more about why you believe so I can understand where you are coming from." Or "I've tried to understand, but it just doesn't make sense to me. Am I missing something?"

Well, I can only speak for myself. But I know I would certainly not say anything like this. Why not? Because those words do not contain the meaning of anything I am trying to say.

People who object to Christianity are not begging you to explain why you "get" the "facts" about God and they don't. What makes you think they regard you as an expert? Why should anybody think you are getting something that they are missing?

This is the colorblind proposal.

The day you can demonstrate that you actually know something others are "missing," maybe someone will ask you to explain it. However at this point, if you are referring to the standard Christian claims, there is no reason to regard any of them as "facts."

It sounds like the only way to be "polite" to you is to act like you are right. Why should anyone do that?




Southender: How about, "Thanks, but it's just not for me."

As far as I can tell, it is not about me, or about you. It is about the truth.

We don't get to pick the truth by what's "for us." It is what it is. We don't know everything about what it is. But one thing we know is that we don't pick it. The truth is the stuff that is still true even when it isn't "for you."


When I challenge unsubstantiated Christian claims, I am not asking you to please explain them to me and set me straight and fill me in on the "facts" about God. In that moment, I am not asking you to tell me something. I am trying to tell you something.

I am telling you that those claims do not appear to be the truth.

And that seems like a pretty serious problem.


The weak supplications you suggest may be "polite" but they are not addressing this problem.



Southender: You made reference that no one asks for this to be explained, but you are mistaken. There are plenty of people in my circles who are searching in their spiritual lives...

Read what I wrote. I said, "People who object to Christianity." The people you are talking about are not those people.



Southender:If all you want is the facts, this is not the place for you. Why not just continue educating yourself privately on the stance or belief system you choose and be happy with your choice and move on.

Ha! I'm not leaving.



Southender:It's about the "truth" for you, not everyone.

I'm not talking about opinions, the stuff that is different for everybody. I'm talking about truth which can be verified, which is the same for everybody.






Spider Five: But, there is no truth for everyone.

For example, I can pick up a red ball, and identify it as red. How am I to know that what I see as red, my husband may see something completely different than my view of red, but he sees the color he has learned to identify as red.

I have heard this raised before. What you say could very well be, but I think that is a different point.

In the case you describe, it does not matter at all whether your perceptions are different from his. You are achieving agreement that this is red and that is black, right? As long as you are identifying them correctly it's good enough. There is consensus. It provokes no disagreement or conflict.



Spider Five: Two people may experience the same thing, but process it differently.

I'm not sure what you mean by "process it differently." I would say that people often experience the same thing and describe it differently, or make different claims about it.

That's why we have things like science, and courts - to compare the descriptions and figure out, as best as we can, which descriptions and claims are the most accurate. It doesn't work perfectly but it is the best we can do. It works pretty good.

In cases where it cannot be discerned which claims or descriptions are the most accurate, the only thing to do is tell the truth - "It cannot be discerned." In other words, we don't know.



Spider Five: I do think the same thing occurs with many other aspects of life, including spirituality.

What surprises me most, when discussing direct divine experience, is not how different the descriptions are. It is surprising how much the same they are, across cultures and generations. The claims that people make about it are something else again.




Spider Five: It's not that one is correct and the other is "blind".

In actual cases of colorblindness, it can be easily demonstrated that a normal sighted person is seeing something "correctly," or more accurately, or is getting more information from it, and a colorblind person isn't. That's why I feel the comparison is so inadequate to spiritual discussion - because no actual deficiency can be shown, particularly not by comparing theists to non-theists. Normal people seem to feel and experience a lot of the same things. Again, it is the claims about what it is the cause, and what it means, that give rise to conflict.




05-10-14 5:12Buddhism and Peace

Erma: To say that there hasn't been a war for $2,500 years...for Buddism...says what.?

It says that Buddhism is a religion of peace.



Erma:Look at what is happening in China right now because of "Buddism"...

Are you speaking of Tibet? How do you figure Buddhism is culpable in this matter?



Erma: You think the Chinese are being mean to them because of their appearance?

Of course not. It's not because of Buddhism either. The Chinese are annexing the land.

I'm really not sure what you are saying here. Are you saying that because Buddhists are being attacked by others, Buddhism cannot be said to be less violent? That makes no sense.

I'm not saying Buddhism is perfect, or has never once been associated with violence, but violence in the history of Buddhism is exceedingly - and admirably - rare.




Erma: People will find any reason to argue or bicker.

Well, sure. But that doesn't mean that all groups are equally violent, no matter what religion they are.

War and religion is a bit of a digression, but since you brought it up, here is my observation.

I think it is safe to say that there is something about Buddhism which helps explain why the religion has a history of peace. There is something about Christianity which helps explain why the religion has a history of violence and persecution.

I imagine that finding out what the Buddhists are doing well and the Christians are doing poorly would be a good idea. We should at least be looking into it.



Erma: Now if someone who claims to be a Christian hates someone or causes a war, or creates havoc in the name of Christianity, that's not really a Christian.

I suppose you could say the same of a hating or warlike Buddhist.

But there is a difference. Groups who call themselves Christian perpetrate violence quite often and groups who call themselves Buddhist almost never do. I think it might have something to do with the content of the religions in question.



Erma: No religion is incorruptible.

That is absolutely true, and it is an important fact to keep in mind.

However I would not use that fact to dismiss the obvious differences. Buddhism seems to have been corrupted quite rarely. Christianity seems to have been corrupted quite often. I would be very interested in knowing why this is.



Erma: To say that there hasn't been a war for $2,500 years...for Buddism...says what.?




Erma: To say that there hasn't been a war for $2,500 years...for Buddism...says what.?





05-10-14 5:10Angry Atheists

Athena: Why do believers always insist that all Atheists are angry? I'm certainly not angry.

Sharonie: It's because the religion of Atheism is not fulfilling you, for obvious reasons.

Athena: Atheism is not a religion, any more than static is a TV channel. Atheism is the absence of belief.

Sharonie: That's a common way for Atheists to describe it. But there's no "absence if belief." That's against human nature.

No. People can have the absence of faith.



Sharonie: That's not possible. We all believe in something.

We all have mental maps. There are accurate maps which reflect the actual landscape and then there are maps with no referent in reality. Having accurate maps is different from having non-referent maps.



Sharonie: It doesn't matter how you want to twist it, when you say something is "imaginary" you're saying that it doesn't exist in reality and that is a belief.

Gods appear to be imaginary. That is not a belief, it is an accurate description of reality which any person can verify.



BellaTone: My bible states that those who know about God but do not believe are going to hell and in hell souls are tortured which is why I feel bad.

I'm really sorry you are stuck believing this.




05-5-14 5:25Divine Creation

Katy: I don't like the idea all our ancestry, all creation just leads back to a void, that doesn't have any wisdom. I would rather to believe we are made by God.

I know that is what you would "rather" believe, but you should know that clinging to a fantasy instead of facing the truth is not good. You should abandon the idea that the truth will be what you would "rather" it be. It is what it is.



Katy: I can't grasp the whole idea of creation that started with black hole. How that one DNA could actually lead to the Creation of everything.

There was no DNA at the big bang. You have no clue what the science actually says, and you should fix that, but you should also quit pretending that just because you don't understand the big bang, or DNA, or because you don't like a universe without gods, that means you get to have it be how you like. You don't.

This universe began with a singularity, which may or may not have been from a black hole. It is not known where the singularity came from or exactly why it expanded. Particles were extremely simple at first and became more complex with time through various means of self-organization. Gravity in stars compressed the simplest particles into more complex particles with sticky bits and pushy bits. The particles attracted each other on the sticky side and pushed away from each other on the pushy side and this caused them to be arranged in complex, looping shapes. More gravity and energy applied at various points caused some of the shapes to become self-replicating.

The properties that caused every event in the universe don't need a god because they are inherent in the characteristics of the materials. This can be observed happening today and there is a universe of evidence to show that it has been happening for at least 14.3 billion years in much the same way.

This is the story which is written on every single thing which can be examined. Looking at the stars shows this is true. Looking at the planets shows this is true. Looking at the rocks and the water of our Earth shows that it is true. Looking at every single form of life, from the simplest to the most complex, shows this is true.

Nothing, zero, zip, not one thing, nothing that you can examine shows any indication that your stupid, petty, frightful story is true. You "rathering" is just a demonstration of how futile and ridiculous it is.




Katy: How sad your life must be, with no magic in it! All life is a miracle. If you can't see God you are missing the magic in life!

Think of a tadpole, growing feet and legs, turning into a frog. God is so cool!

There would be nothing cool about that if it required gods to do it. Far more amazing and wonderful is the ability of particles to be self-organizing, and to organize for self-replication, and the ability of life to adapt to being ambulatory on land while still laying eggs in water. It is a direct transitional evolutionary land bridge, and so successful it is still with us today.

"Gods" do not explain why the tadpoles turn into frogs. Natural processes do.



Katy: Maybe we can't turn water into wine, but Jesus can.

"The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do." - Galileo Galilei

We do turn water into wine, with a little help from grapes and the sun.



Katy: My Biggest miracles in my life is my family. I didn't do anything to deserve this gift.

It is an inherent ability of your being as a carrier of DNA, and yours to make of what you will. You are doing it. It is a gift you are giving to yourself.



Katy: Forgiveness is very big miracle too. Brings family back together. Loving people more than loving money. That is a miracles when do this too.

That is not gods doing things, it is people doing things.



Katy: Don't be blind to the truth.

If what you are saying was truth there would be some way to detect it. There would be some way to show it. It would be apparent. I could not possibly be blind to it if it was true.

I am not blind. I am looking, at everything. And I can see what is here. Anyone can see it, because it is actually here, happening. You could not possibly fail to see it also, if you looked. It is a panoply of organization, from the simplest to the most complex, spread over everything. Self-organizing particles, doing their thing.


None of this requires gods. There are no gods to be detected, and no evidence that can show any kind of involvement from gods. The dance of the tadpole and the energy of the sun and the love in our hearts are readily explainable as our own doing.

You fail to appreciate the true beauty of it all when you try to pretend that this could not exist without "magic". It's not magic. It is amazingly, wonderfully real.





Katy: Blindness is not seeing God working here.

What is supposed to be the god part?



Katy: This sounds like big bang theory, right? Fish, climbing out the water and turning into a person. This just doesn't make any sense to me at all.

Frogs are fish climbing out of the water and turning into land animals. You can see it yourself - they start as fish, hatching in the water from fish eggs, and then go onto land once they get land legs. Amphibians are a direct transitional form between the water and the air, the fish and the land animals, including mammals, including primates, including us.

You brought up the tadpoles, but you pretend you can't see they are an example of what you pretend makes no sense. If you quit pretending you could allow it to make sense.



Katy: There has to be more to it all than the Big Bang theory. That idea doesn't have leg to stand on at all.

Stop doing this.

The Big Bang does have a leg to stand on. It is a description of what we can observe happening, right now. We can see it in the trajectories of the galaxies using the Lambda-CDM model. This is looking at real things we can see, galaxies, and measuring where they are moving and how fast. We can also measure the radiation given out by the big bang, because it is still radiating, today, right now, producing electromagnetic fields we can detect with instruments. We have recently detected the existence of the Higgs boson, the elementary particle produced by the big bang which gives other particles mass.

What do you call all these real galaxies, all this real radiation, these real particles which can be detected? What do you call the decades of correct predictions the theory has produced? Not a leg to stand on? How can you say that?




Katy: You are such a smart lady.

That is very nice of you to say, but if you think so you should listen to what I am telling you.




Katy: Like God....blah blah blah, OT times.....blah blah, sin nature....blah blah pretend stuff...

If you want to live in la-la land, with no understanding of what reality is, that is your choice, but then why are you talking to me? I can't tell you how things are supposed to be in your la-la land.

If you want to put both feet in the real world you can stop blathering about unimportant stuff and pay attention to what is really happening.




Katy: What about fear? Can you really vanish fear out of people's lives?

Yes, actually. Not completely, but largely. Enough.

The way to vanquish fear is with a little enlightenment. Fear in the form of fretful worrying is a kind of suffering. Anyone can learn to overcome suffering by practicing focused attention.

It's not the magical work of another. It is something you yourself can learn to do.



Katy: Seeing the truth, What is really important in life.

The truth is the descriptions which are accurate. What is important is what works. Having accurate descriptions that work is what is true and important.



Katy: God washed away Man's sins.

Blather.




Katy: But, saying that you don't need God. That is like a child is saying they don't need their parents at all. A child saying they can survive in his world without their parents help and support. Right?

No, wrong. Of course it is not like that.

A child does depend on its parents. The parents provide actual things, like food and shelter. The parents are actually in the child's life, physically touching him, cleaning him, moving the child from place to place, talking directly to the child and interacting with him, actively arranging for the child's experience. They are doing behavior in the child's presence which the child can observe and learn to reciprocate, which causes feelings of affection and care between all the family members. That is what it means for real beings to be in the presence of each other.

The invisible people invented by your religion are not like this. They do not provide any actual things you need to survive. Food is growing, miles and miles away from you, but it has to be picked out of the ground by real, visible people, and trucked to your store by real people, and purchased by a real person, and cooked by a real person, and then you have to physically stick it in your mouth. Every single part of this was done by visible people. Not one thing which is done in the process of providing you with food (or shelter, etc.) was done by an invisible person. Nothing.




Katy: Parents love you unconditionally. They take care all your needs, even your wants. They give you advice. Parents love never ends too. They forgive you, guide.

Yes, so in all those ways they are not like invisible people. Invisible people do not do anything loving that you can detect. They do nothing for your needs or wants. They don't give actual advice. Everything people told you is advice from the invisible people is actually advice from visible people. Every bit of guidance is from visible people.

The invisible people don't do anything at all. They are completely unlike real parents.




04-20-14 1:25Embracing Differences

Anona: What are your religious beliefs? I'm just curious, no judgement.

Belief is problematic. I'm not referring to statements of principle, like "I believe we should be nice to each other," or matters of opinion, like "I believe yellow is the prettiest color," but to belief in unsubstantiated supernatural claims. This type of belief is creating lots of problems because it differs notably from observable reality. The distance between what is believed and the reality creates error.

So, while I "believe" in spring, and yellow, and being nice, etc., I do not have descriptions of realilty which are not substantiated and therefore require "belief" to sustain. I would rather just know the truth. It is far more interesting and beautiful than the silly old stories anyway.



Anona: I think as individuals, we should embrace our differences.

Differences in matters of opinion and of custom and lifestyle should be embraced, but different descriptions of reality which aren't accurate do not need to be "embraced" if that means pretending they are true. There is no reason to pretend that 2+2=5, or embrace "different" answers to 2+2 for the sake of difference.

Some descriptions of reality are very, very accurate, and can be shown to be very accurate, and can be demonstrated to be true by anyone, regardless of what they "believe." These accurate descriptions are the ones which really do things, like cure diseases and provide electricity. That is how we know they are accurate. Examining the descriptions to see if they are accurate, and improving them with time, has turned out to be a great system for finding out what is true.

Descriptions of supernatural beings, supernatural dicta, afterlife outcomes, etc. have no referent in reality which can be examined to determine accuracy, do not produce evidence which can be examined, and are in fact inconsistent with observable reality. Futhermore, they vary with culture and time and almost all are accepted to be the folktales and superstitions of primitive people - except for the particular one a person believes in, of course.

I don't think we need to continue to embrace descriptions of reality which appear to be wrong. And if we don't know, that is the fact which needs to be embraced by everyone, or at least everyone who values the truth. Embracing ancient folktales as truth is embracing ignorance and superstition over of reality. It's not working.




04-08-14 1:25Is Religion Just Misused?

This arose in another conversation but I would like to throw it open to anyone. (We happened to be discussing Christianity, but this applies to any supernatural religion.) Many Christians have told me that Christianity is actually a good system, and when things go wrong in association with Christianity it is only because people are misusing it.

I was saying that things are bound to go wrong with Christianity because of the basic tenets. It's not just that people can take anything good and twist it into something bad. I would say the basic tenets of Christianity, which apply not just to extremist Christians but to almost all Christians who have ever lived, are problematic at best and destructive at worst. They are problematic mostly because they do not seem to be true.


Basic Bad Tenets of Christianity / Supernatural Religions

1) Gods are apparent.

It really doesn't matter whether gods "exist" or not. Either way, it's a plain fact that they are not apparent. There are no observable gods, no evidence of gods, no observable effects from gods, no observable interactions with gods. There is absolutely nothing to show that gods manifest in the form of interactive superbeings which affect matter.

Christianity presents God and (other supernatual beings) as apparent - as if they have observable effects and interact with humans. Since they are not, this tenet causes untold confusion, anger, frustration and guilt in the face of actual human experience.

The distance between the truth (gods not apparent) and the tenet (gods apparent and doing things) causes a lot of error.


2) Gods have power.

Early people did not understand the conditions which create the weather, or illness, or the seasons, or biodiversity, or human behavior, etc. So they naturally believed that when things happened which they did not understand it was the doings of gods. This lead to the belief that gods could be implored to affect these things at human behest.

However the weather and illness, etc. were not the doings of gods and imploring gods for these effects was a waste of time. Also, the sudden and extreme ways this can affect human fortune leaves people bewildered and distraught over what The Gods have done, with no understanding of the actual causes and effects, and therefore very likely to mis-attribute their own circumstances.

The distance between the truth (gods do not act and cannot be implored) and the tenet (gods have power to do magical things and can be implored) leads to error, not to mention heartache.


3) God has rules.

Before humans invented civil law, religion was the social container for the rules of society. So naturally people of most religions thought their laws and morals came from God. However, since gods are not apparent, morality has to come from someplace else, which it does - the evolutionary condtions of humans as social animals.

Having God as the author of the moral order causes a lot of problems. Mainly, because the rules that come From God tend to be a matter of tradition and are not adaptable to changing times. Also, because having the rules From God make it so anyone who goes against the rules is GOING AGAINST GOD. Since there are no actual rules From God, this tenet can only be enacted as contrivance for people to assert their own rules and demand that everyone go along. Do this, or you'll be AGAINST GOD!!

The distance between the truth (rules not from god) and the tenet (rules from god) causes a lot of error.


4) Scripture is God's Word.

Since gods are not apparent, clearly the set of papers humans designate as scripture are the work of humans. So, having the words on the paper believed to be From God gives them an artificial importance that they are not worthy of, being no different from any other human writing. Also, it means people try to organize their lives around what the words say, even if they make no sense or are completely irrelevent. Also, trying to understand reality while conforming to the parameters of the words leads to massive misunderstanding and conflict.

Again, the great distance between the tenet and the reality create error.


5) Humans have "sin."

There is no evidence of divine morality, or of a supernatural element to wrongdoing. There is no reason to think human mistakes or deviance go against the wishes of any kind of supernatural being. Human brains are learning machines, and they learn mainly through trial and error. So of course there is a ton of error. It's understandable and explainable.

But telling people that their errors are AGAINST GOD not only gives them horrendous guilt and shame, it also turns human error into a form of social control. People who are trained to believe that their error offends God will act in compliance with authority to attain redemption.


6) Afterlife choice.

This one might be more specific to Christianity. There is no evidence that people can do anything in this life which affects what happens to them in "the afterlife." Absolutely nothing is known of any kind personal persistence "after" death, and there is nothing observable in realtiy to suggest it. Every single syllable of speculation about the afterlife is human invention.

However a basic tenet of Christianity is that there is an afterlife, and that conforming to the religion is the dispositive factor affecting afterlife outcomes. As in, "Whosoever believeth in me shall not perish but have eternal life," etc.

This leads to tremendous error and suffering. For one, fear of death is pre-programmed as a survival strategy. Religions hijack this natural fear, promising to negate death somehow or another, again trading on redemption to obtain compliance. For two, religion is usually a cultural marker, and the tenet that OUR beliefs are redemptive creates the perception that THEIR beliefs are not. As such, this tenet creates brutal ingroup / outgroup conflict.

The distance between the truth (nothing is known of an afterlife) and the tenet (we can rig the afterlife) creates drastic, avoidable error.



I think it would be hard to argue that these tenets are not part of Christianity, or that they are actually true or good tenets. So clearly Christianity is not a good system which people misuse. It represents a big disconnect from reality at the most basic level and as such it's easy to see how it could create a lot of error. Error comes from doing things for poor reasons which do not reflect reality. This creates bad results.

In this context, it is easy to understand Christianity's bloody history. The theocracies which existed with Christianity at their heart were a disaster, the Chrstian holy wars and persecutions which arose created untold human suffering, and the deficit in human advancement created by Christian misunderstanding is a chasm we are just barely crossing.

I think it's time to face the fact that the legacy religions we inherited from our ancient ancestors are filled with incorrect ideas that don't work, and strive to create religions and social systems based on understanding reality.



Sissy: Did you make all of this up?

It is a description of what I have observed.


If you think any point is inaccurate, please feel free to debate! We could use some disagreement around here.



Sissy: Okay, I'll bite.

Sissy, it is a great honor to speak with you. Thank you so much for engaging with me on such an important topic. I am in your debt.



Sissy: I disagree with everything you say because in your text you have destroyed God in the first two lines of your point.

That would be quite an accomplishment, thank you! But, that was not my intention.



Sissy: And this post was based on your "observation"?

Allow me to clarify. I am not referring to my personal observation. I am discussing observations that can be independently confirmed by every person. The foundation for understanding reality is observation which can be checked and verified by anyone. In other words, what I have observed is what you cannot fail to observe also if you look.

There is nothing that can be observed by any person which shows indications of gods.


Consider that many people have believed that there are multiple gods, and many other people have believed that there is sort of one god, but with a son, an enemy and minions, while many believe there is only a single god and no other. This kind of disagreement causes a lot of conflict. But why is there disagreement? If humans want to know how many of something there are, we just count them.

Therein lies the problem. There is nothing of gods available to examine to tell whether the gods are single or multiple. There is no place you can look and nothing you can do to count the gods. It cannot be determined by any means. In fact the number of actual gods we have been able to count so far is and always has been zero.

We cannot even count the gods, let alone know anything else about them either. They cannot be examined. Claims about gods cannot be checked for accuracy by everyone. No knowledge of gods can be acquired.

So, claiming that gods even exist is saying way more than anyone knows.


As for what people do say about gods, there is almost no agreement. This is why. And acting like we know things we don't know has created a huge disconnect between the reality (gods not apparent to examination) and the claims (human can know things about gods.) This disconnect causes a lot of error.




Sissy: How did I do?

Excellent. You certainly clued right in that the problems with all the other tenets flow directly from the problems with the first one. Please, feel free to continue the debate. Thanks again!



Later....


Hi Sissy, thanks again for speaking with me.



Sissy: No problem. Now, please allow me to share my position: How about three spirits, One God. (Now, I'm getting annoying.)

I'm not annoyed, I'm actually thrilled that you are willing to share.



Sissy: I believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I understand that you have some beliefs about some things. Unfortunately, believing things is not a good method for finding out what is the case. It leads to a lot of misunderstanding and error.



Sissy:The problem with the views of which you speak, is that you are trying to equate the spiritual world to that of the physical.

No, the error is in pretending that they could ever be separate.

What can be verified is not just what is "physical," it refers to anything that can be verified by everyone.



Sissy: To try and comprehend the spiritual without prayer is nearly impossible, that is where faith comes in to play.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the faith system specifically does not work. Prayer is not a reliable tool for determining truth. What people "confirm" through prayer is a) not consistent and b) not known to have anything to do with actual gods. In fact it is known to greatly resemble whatever they were told to expect.

If prayer was a means to determine that Christianity is correct there would not be millions of Muslims. They pray five times a day. Devout Hindus pray a lot too. Many have as much faith as you do, if not more. And yet, they are not confirming your claims that God has a Son.

So, obviously people can dedicate their lives to prayer and feel the divine connection in their soul and still not be learning anything that can be known to be true about gods. Prayer simply confirms for most people what they have been taught or decided to think.



Sissy: It is completely natural to feel the way you do and view things this way.

It is completely natural for people to feel lots of different things and view things lots of different ways. That is why, when trying to understand reality, it is so very important not to rely on how people feel and how they view things, but find out how things actually are.

Information about how things actually are can do things that unconfirmable ideas cannot and could never do, in ways that are available to every person regardless of what they think. That is how you know it really works.



Sissy: Praying really works. When we pray, there is an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is through this that we can comprehend what God desires for our lives.

If this was true Muslims and Hindus would be able to comprehend that God desires them to believe in a Son.



Sissy: When you try to comprehend the spiritual realm with just your human mind nothing spiritual makes any sense.

Hindu and Muslim believers are not trying to "comprehend the spiritual realm with their human minds" any more than Christian believers are. They were born with the exact same spiritual toolkit that you are using. But, they can't tell that God has a Son using this method.


If they can't tell, you can't tell.



Sissy: We can't be compared to Muslims and Hindus because we don't share the same beliefs. Or serve the same God.

Are their beliefs wrong? Do they serve the wrong God?



Sissy: I do not tell people of other faiths they are wrong.

Well then, for politeness sake, let's just say you are the one who is wrong. It doesn't really matter who, but obviously someone is.

The point is that using prayer and the indwelling spirit to determine that you are correct about your beliefs doesn't work. In this example, Muslims and Hindus use prayer and the indwelling spirit, exactly as you advised, to make sense of the spiritual world. That is how they know they are correct in believing that God does not have a Son.

But, that didn't work for you. You used the same tools, felt the same confirmation, and ended up wrong. You ended up believing God had a Son when he doesn't. (Or vice versa - like I said, it doesn't matter which.)



Sissy: They believe just as strongly in their God(s) as I do.

Of course. That is why belief is not a good tool for finding out what is true. You (or they) end up believing things which are wrong. In fact, everybody ends up believing things which are wrong, because believing does not tell you anything about what is actually the case.

This creates a really big difference between what people think is going on, and what really is. That difference leads to a lot of problems.


I understand that you have your beliefs, but you should consider what this means about faith. You are relying entirely on a faulty tool which can't be made to work for (at least) two thirds of the human population.

There are better ways to find out what is going on.



RedStar: Muslims do not speak of God as the Heavenly Father. Furthermore Muslims claim that Allah has no son, this represents a head-on collision between God of the Bible and Allah.

Is there any way to tell which is correct?





Days Later....





GlowWorm: What is your goal with this? Is it to change people's minds and beliefs?

Of course.



GlowWorm: Why does it matter so much?

The truth matters.





Later....


GlowWorm:There are TWO truths here. One being, there is no proof that God is real. The other being, there is no proof God isn't real either.

There are TWO big errors with this line of reasoning.

First of all, offering "no proof that God isn't real" as demonstrative of anything is a known logical fallacy. There is also no proof that blerp, blen and bloopsie aren't real. So, because of this lack of proof, are you now concluding that we should presume the existence of blerp, blen and bloopsie? Are claims that blerp is the nice one and blen is the mean one justified?

And what about flarp? There is no proof that flarp isn't real either! Are you now busy making room for flarp in your worldview? What about scrant? I heard that scrant is really helpful - you don't want to deny scrant and lose out on the help of scrant, do you? What about zint? Flol? Patinsimp? Rejanum?

The list of things for which there is no proof that they don't exist is as infinite as the human imagination. That is not a good reason to say that a particular thing which has no proof of not existing, therefore does, or even could. There is no reason to make an exception to this for "gods" but not for "blerps" and "blens."


Secondly, I never said "God isn't real." I said, gods are not apparent, and you completely agree with this yourself when you acknowledge that there is no proof that God is real. Proof that gods are real would be the apparentness, and you know for a fact that there is none. Gods are not apparent, and you know it.


Christianity rests on the claim that gods are apparent. Yet, you know they are not. So, the distance between what the religion claims (that gods are apparent) and the truth you know (that they are not) is a vast error, and causes untold suffering. People have been told that gods are apparent, but they look and look and look and never find them. This is confusing and heartbreaking.



GlowWorm: A long time ago, "observation" showed that the outer planets didn't exist. But they did, and they still do and just because we couldn't see them nor had any proof they existed did not make them any less.

People who claimed that outer planets "didn't exist" would have been wrong. However, people who claimed that no outer planets were apparent would have been correct. It's true, the outer planets were not apparent to the level of observation of the time. After it became apparent that outer planets existed, only then would someone be in error to claim that no outer planets were apparent.

If you are suggesting that someday humans will invent a telescope which can see God, that wouldn't change the truth, that right now, there are no apparent gods available to any kind of observation. And "maybe someday" is no justification for pretending that gods are apparent now, or that any particular human descriptions of them are true.

We could someday discover that there are intelligent aliens who travel in space. That doesn't mean we are justified in believing that Star Trek is real now.



GlowWorm: There could be no evidence in a trial that a person committed a crime. In the eyes of the law that means that person is not guilty, but let's say that person did commit a crime. In "reality" and in truth that person IS guilty and there being a lack of evidence does make that person any less morally responsible for the crime they committed.

A lack of evidence would mean that you do not know if the person is guilty or not. There is a reason why, when we do not know if the person is guilty, we are required by law to act is if they are innocent. It is because the previous system, acting as if we knew when we didn't, was creating great error in the form of horrid miscarriages of justice.

The legal system requires that you act as if you do not know what is not apparent, and that is the exact same level of scrutiny that should be applied to any claims, especially religious ones.



GlowWorm: Nothing you can ever say will convince me to change my beliefs.

I knew that going in. But there's no harm in trying anyway. For one, the beliefs I outlined are extremely problematic and should be changed if possible. For two, perhaps you will not consider the matter, but others may read these words who will. That's good enough for me.

But, I think you should know that determination not to change no matter what is a very closeminded position. There is no view that I would continue to hold if evidence showed that the view was not accurate. I would change my views to be more accurate descriptions of the reality in a heartbeat, as in fact I often have as I matured and gained knowledge. It's actually a great tool for growth, you should try it.



GlowWorm: You are clumping every Christian's beliefs into these "bad tenets" that YOU have decided are bad.

I explained that the tenets are bad because they do not seem to be true. Acting like they are true when there is no evidence that they are true creates a lot of error. So obviously Christians who don't think they are true would not be subject to these particular errors.

But, the basic tenet that gods are apparent is a straight up Christian claim. And, while I actually know a couple of Christians who do not believe in gods, the vast majority do. I need to use some word to refer to the people who believe this and "Christians" is what they call themselves.



GlowWorm: Humans are flawed, regardless of any of them believing in God. So that whole observation that people believing in God causes them to make poor choices is irrelevant because people make poor choices either way.

It is possible to have less error. As humans understand more, they make fewer poor choices. This is why morality and conditions are so much better today than in ancient times. Humans have improved with error correction as we went along.

Yes, error is inevitable, but knowledge that corresponds accurately to reality greatly decreases the error. That great decrease in error is really worth it.



GlowWorm: All I'm pointing out is that lack of evidence does not prove God's existence just the same as is does not prove God's non-existence.

It shows that you know nothing of gods and claims to the contrary are unnecessary and inaccurate.



GlowWorm: I didn't say I "knew" anything about gods. But just as I know nothing, neither do you.

That is not what Christiantiy teaches. Christianity is claiming to contain loads of information about gods.

That is a great error. If Christianity taught the truth, that humans know nothing about gods, the rest of the bad tenets wouldn't even exist.



GlowWorm: No matter how many different ways you use the word apparent, I don't care that I can't see God.

Apparent does not mean just to the eye, it means detectable in any fashion. Gods are not apparent to the eyes or by any other means, as you well know when you assert that there is no evidence that gods exist.



GlowWorm: I compare believing in God to an emotion.

Believing in god is not god, and I don't think anyone is saying that belief in gods is not apparent.



GlowWorm: You don't need to see emotions. I can't see happy, I feel it. I can't see anger, and so forth.

Happiness and anger are extremely apparent. You can observe people experiencing them, see their manifestation as expressions and behavior, and even measure the levels of dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and so forth in the bloodstream which correspond to the experience. If there was this much evidence of gods they would be very apparent.

If you are saying that god is just another human emotion, originating in the human brain in response to stimuli, signaled to the body by hormonal release, and expressed only as human behavior, I'm afraid that doesn't fit the definition of god very well. In any case, that is far from what Christianity teaches about gods.



GlowWorm: Maybe you think we should get rid of all emotions in society as well, since they are a greater cause of human error than any thing else ever has been.

You can't "get rid of" emotions. They are here, part of us. On the other hand, you don't have to "get rid of" gods, they are already not here. People would just have to stop making false claims about them and that particular set or errors would disappear. Maybe we can't get rid of all errors, but striving for less error by eliminating known errors would be an improvement.





Later....


GlowWorm: Raverlady, I appreciate your knowledge. You are a very smart lady.

That is nice of you to say, thanks. I think you are very smart too and it is great conversing with you.



GlowWorm: I just simply disagree.

That seems a shame. If I was talking to someone I thought was very smart and had arguments that I could not refute, would not just continue to disagree with them. I would consider what that meant.



GlowWorm: I believe if people could just tolerate other people's beliefs instead trying to change them, the world could be a better place.

I agree that we should tolerate other people's beliefs, but I do not agree that tolerating them consists of never trying to change them. A calm and civil discussion such as the one we are having is not any kind of intolerance.

We already tolerate almost every belief in this country, by allowing them to exist unsuppressed and to be practiced freely, and by striving not to discriminate against people for their beliefs. Prohibiting the practice of Christianity, for example, or spitting on Christians in the street, or refusing Christians equal opportunity in jobs or housing, would be intolerance.

Pointing out that Christianity does not correspond to reality and seems to be incorrect on the most basic tenets is not intolerance. This is like saying that teaching kids where babies come from is intolerant of their belief that the stork brings them. They are free to continue believing in the stork if that is what they want. But telling them it's not the stork is not intolerance, and it's the right thing to do.


I see a great untruth all around, which you can see perfectly well also. We both know that humans know nothing of gods, not one thing, not even that they exist. Yet, humans keep making claim after claim about them. You may be able to sit back and watch while the bullshit piles higher and deeper, but I am not willing to do this. I do not want to see all the advances we have made as humans go down tethered to a 2,000-year-old sinking ship.



GlowWorm: To me, that is the ultimate form of evolution...absolute tolerance.

If that means accepting lies being taught as truth, it's not a step forward.



GlowWorm: It's not as bad as you are making it out to be. I know there are people who do allow their religious beliefs to dictate their actions, but not every person with religious beliefs is like that.

The problem is that humans are not using reason. We have really big, global problems right now which need to be adressed. The kind of economy we are using is not working, and we are rapidly ruining the biosphere. We have to act, soon, as a united species, with action that really works, or we will destroy ourselves, along with a lot of other life.

Belief in gods is not the only irrational belief dragging people down right now. Belief in unregulated capitalism is as irrational as any religious belief, if not more, and this belief is having far more negative impacts.

If humans could be persuaded to use reason, we could come together around the explanations of reason and use reas0on to solve the problems. But as long as most of society persists in believing in unreasonable claims about gods, reason has to be thrown out. And since there is really no other tool we can use to address the shitstorm on the way, if we throw out reason we are fucked.

Getting people to understand what is true and how we know would be a huge step forward. As long as people keep making claims about gods we can't take that step together.



GlowWorm: I guess that peace between humans is your goal to eliminating religion. But that will never happen.

Everyone having an accurate picture of reality would eliminate a lot of conflict.


And since you bring it up, I would like to explain that I am not at all anti-religion. I understand the positive role that religion plays in society and for the individual. Religion provides a narrative which brings together an explanation of the world with appreciation of what is important, to create a foundation for social cohesion and personal wholeness. As such, I think religion could be a great force for human progress and wellbeing.

The problem is that the big religions today are all ancient traditions from thousands of years ago, invented by people who did not understand much about reality and crafted them from their folktales. They did not know any more about gods than we do, and they knew a good deal less about everything that we now understand.

So why should we be letting ancient ignoramouses decide what our beliefs should be? There is no reason for religion to be based on myths from thousands of years ago.

I think it is possible to create religion based on truth. We now know so much more about the world, and what is important, and how to treat each other, and how to structure society. We could be formulating religions based on what we have learned and now understand.


If you find it hard to imagine a religion that does not require false claims about gods, consider Buddhism. Unlike other ancient religions, Buddhism does not even have a god, and the basic tenets of Buddhism are not concerned with the supernatural or unknown. They are about the human experience of suffering and how to transcend it. Supernatural claims are clearly not necessary for religion to exist and have meaning. So why have them?

In place of ancient myths and just-so stories, we could make the religious narrative a true one, about where we really came from and what we have learned is really important, with ideals of seeking further knowledge and changing as needed to stay accurate. A religion based on truth and striving for better would truly uplift the human condition.

Thanks again GlowWorm!!



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